He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner's Curse in Joanna Hathaway's Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
Joanna was born in Montréal and is an avid storyteller who was inspired to write after reading her great-grandfather’s memoirs of the First World War. A lifelong history buff, she now has shelves filled with biographies and historical accounts, and perhaps one too many books about pilots. She can often be found reading, traveling, or riding horses.
I LOVED this book and am now obsessed with this world. A fantasy world at war inspired by World War II-era Europe? It is just as beautiful and bittersweet as it sounds.
Some books move so slowly you feel as though your soul is being sucked away. Other books move at a steady progression, building and building, while you know a sudden crescendo will bring it all crashing down. This is the latter and it’s still building.
The MOMENT I finished I went back to read the Prologue straight away and it just hit me SO. DAMN. HARD. Seriously, read the book and then read the prologue again. Good luck keeping those tears at bay. I knew it likely took place later in Aurelia and Athan’s story, but it doesn’t take place at the end of this book and we are still learning about these two, their relationship and what will bring them to that point in the prologue. There is still so much to come.
And let me just say, this book is written and plotted fantastically. Ingeniously. The characters have a well of depth, much of it still to be discovered. Hathaway paints these characters well. They are young. They are impressionable. They want to be heard and want to please. They are teenagers. They are realistic.
As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of movies like Atonement – and I just have this sickening feeling we are headed down a very similar path, but I also can’t look away. I know this story is gritty and the world Hathaway has written is sweeping and golden in its detail. I know there are dark things to come and things are only just beginning but I have to know. I have to know these two will eventually get their mountain.
This is a story about the desperation of war and love and finding your voice. THIS is the type of story that will stick with you. THIS is the type of story that should be written and I’m so very grateful it was.
Hope that helps and feel free to ask anything in the Q&A area above as well.
The new cover is now here! Hope you love it as much as I do. :)
I finally set-up my author account to share a little (ahem, large) update about Dark of the West... We're getting a NEW COVER! Yes, it's true! I'm really excited to see the fresh look, and can't wait to share it with you all. Unfortunately, there's also a bit of bad news to go along with this. Our pub date is now pushed back to February 5th, 2019.
I know. So very far. BUT... if you head to my website, you can get a free sample of Dark of the West delivered to your email and start reading right away. (http://www.joannachathaway.com/dark-o...) I hope you enjoy! Feel free to also say hi over on my Instagram account (@spitfirewriter). I hang out there the most and love connecting with fellow readers and writers. I also like to share fluffy cats and nerdy airplane facts in my Stories...
A huge thanks to everyone who has been so encouraging and supportive on this journey thus far. It really means a lot -- more than you can know!
P.S. Am I supposed to rate my own book here? Is that what authors do? If so, I give it a moderate 4 stars for a noble debut effort, but an exhilarating 5 stars to all airplane dogfight scenes. Though I might be a bit biased. :)
I am so terribly behind on reviews, but I thought I'd write up a very quick mini review until I can catch up!
First of all, I have to commend the writing! It's rare I come across a voice as vivid as Athan's in particular (and Aurelia's was fantastic too)! I loved being utterly swept away in their narrative. By the time I finished, I felt like they were beside me - living and breathing - so much so that I felt their pain as my own.
The story is far from your average royalty-based YA book (which don't get me wrong, I can NEVER have enough of those). The time frame actually sets this one apart quite a bit. It feels like a World War Two 1940-esque world, though it's set in a universe entirely separate from ours. We're talking battle planes, guns, cars, you name it. The story is told in duel POV, one perspective being Athan, a soldier (and the son of the General who is a Big Deal) - and Aurelia, the daughter of a queen in one of the Northern Kingdoms. I'll admit, it took me a little while to catch onto what country was where because the world is incredibly lush and complex - but I finally caught on (and the map will help)! Also, the story is very heavy on court politics/etc (which I'm a sucker for).
Anyway, more soon! But! Be prepared for pain! I'm not over the ending. Because ouch.
Beautiful, bittersweet, and lovely, Joanna Hathaway's debut is a gorgeous must-read. Politics and war, star-crossed lovers and secrets held close—the story begins gently, carefully, and builds in careful strokes to a crescendo of clashing emotions and vendettas. I devoured the story in a matter of a few days, a rarity for me.
Lengthier review to come. In the meantime, add this to your lists!
"Nothing's gained without sacrifice". These are the words of General Dakar, ruler of Savient for the past ten years. The General controls Savient and several NE territories near the Black Sea. West of Savient is the small kingdom of Etania ruled by a Queen (Sinora Lehzar) with powerful ties to Resya, located south of the Black Sea. Having married the King of the Northern realm of Etania, she became Queen upon his death despite her Southern roots. Enemies became allies, friends became foes in war games of intrigue in the quest to expand kingdoms and avenge the death of loved ones.
Altan Dakar, youngest son of General Dakar, loved the exhilaration of flying but did not want to train for the officer corps. He wanted to "fade from Father's radar". The General however, demanded loyalty. "Loyalty...is what you die for. Loyalty is deeper than blood". Altan must become a "Top Flight" pilot.
Aurelia Isendare is an Etanian princess raised with every imaginable luxury. She has lived a protected life never having ventured outside the palace. Most important to Aurelia is honor. "I greatly admire anyone who risks his own life for the service of others. That is honorable".
Alliances between kingdoms are fluid, ever changing. Each ruler has an agenda. Why had General Dakar come to visit Etania? What lies, deception and betrayals will ensue? Princess Aurelia and young Safire Pilot Altan have an instant connection. What might the future hold for them in the chaotic atmosphere of war?
"Dark of the West (Glass Alliance#1)" by Joanna Hathaway is a YA fantasy novel. The challenges faced by Aurelia and Altan during this world war fantasy were difficult ones. Despite trying to be loyal and honest, deception and betrayal made them "opposites who loved". The inclusion of a map marking the wartime territories would have enhanced this reader's experience. I'm thrilled that a map will be provided in the final copy.
Thank you Macmillan-Tor/Forge , Tor Teen and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Dark of the West".
Have you ever heard someone talk about a book and then just known that it was practically meant for you? It doesn't happen to me often, truthfully, because I have a very specific taste when it comes to my favorite books.
The first place I heard about this book was on Elliot Brooks YT channel and I trust her recs completely, so I set it aside for later. Then Rosaria Munda (author of Fireborne) recommended it, specifically to fans of her series. And then I saw even more people recommend it to fans of both "The Winner's Curse" and "Fireborne". You know, my two favorite series, not a big deal or anything.
As you can imagine, by this point - despite my best efforts to stay unaffected - my expectations had reached dangerously high levels.
I'm so happy to say this book managed to meet every one of my expectations (and then some!)
Things I Liked:
✶ The Setting Something automatically unique about this story is undeniably the setting. Described as "a fantasy world inspired by WWII-era Europe", you can already tell that this isn't your average fantasy. As a result, this doesn't often feel like a reading a YA fantasy. Instead, I would say it feels almost like reading a historical fiction novel about a different world's history.
This aspect worked so incredibly well with the story and served as an extremely unique, atmospheric setting that I will find myself thinking about for a long time.
✶The Characters Truthfully, this could work as a negative as well, but that's only because these characters felt so real. Our two protagonists, Aurelia and Athan, were the most realistically written characters I've read in a long time. Because of this, there was no shortage of me wanting to shake some common sense into them.
Here's the thing! They're both clever, level-headed teenagers; but they're still just teenagers. They're flawed and messy and say the wrong thing or don't say enough. Even as I was shaking my head at them, I understood. I wanted so badly for them to be happy, even as I was envisioning myself slapping them.
As for the other characters, they were also extremely vivid and well-written. I hated the ones I was meant to hate, while still seeing why they were the way they were. No character is painted as solely good or solely bad. Except for Arrin. I hate him. Very much. :)
✶Writing Style Writing style is such an incredibly taste-specific thing, but my gosh, as far as I was concerned this is darn near perfect. The author managed to create such lush, atmospheric imagery without ever leaving the reader feeling stranded in an ocean of purple prose. But then the scene would shift and she would lessen the descriptions, relying solely on simple statements and it did such an amazing job of giving the reader a clear indicator of the tone shift.
✶Pacing: If you've been following my reviews for awhile, you know by now that pacing is one of the most important parts of my reading experience. It's such a fickle thing and always understandable when the authors don't hit the mark.
But dang, Joanna Hathaway did incredibly. This is a nearly 500 paged, slow-paced book and it very easily could have felt like trudging through quicksand. Instead, the entire book feels like holding your breath, waiting as the song slowly builds to crescendo that will bring everything crashing down around it.
And yet, this book ends before the crescendo hits. Don't get me wrong, there's definitely an explosive final act, but you as the reader, know this is only the beginning and it hurts in the best way possible.
✶The Prologue: I'm not going to lie, the second I read the last page I went back and reread the prologue. I have no words for what I felt as I reread it after reading the whole book.
If you're the kind of person that usually finds themselves skipping prologues because you feel they add nothing to the story, don't skip this one. I promise it's worth it.
Things I Didn't Like
✶Exclamation Points This is SO personal. I mean, can you tell how much I loved this book that one of my only complaints is about a punctuation preference?? Anyway, I find the use of exclamation marks in fiction sometimes pull me out of the story and they are used quite frequently throughout this book, but it's not a big deal and easily ignored.
✶ I know why it needed to happen, but the whole thing felt extremely abrupt and out of character for . I just wish that maybe there would have been a bit more build-up or perhaps we could have witnessed the scene in someone else's perspective, as to get a bit more... something lol.
This book is not going to be everyone's cup of tea and I understand that. But as far as I'm concerned, this was everything I wanted to be and I cannot wait for the emotional turmoil I know the next two books are going to put me through.
But seriously, if this sounds like the kind of thing you'd enjoy, don't hesitate to pick it up. You won't regret it.
The story is driven as Athan, son of a fearsome military leader, is sent to spy on princess Aurelia. Too often in fantasy love stories do I see the romantic plot take over, and a war just becomes a backdrop. Not here. In fact, it was the politics that really drew me in.
It begins with Athan's family, who each have their own specific talent of war. His father is a man who united ragtag nations and created a formidable army that continues to conquer. His oldest brother Arrin is a handsome military celebrity and hero who is somehow crude and irresistibly charming at the same time. Then there's Kalt, his other brother who commands the sea and refuses to step a toe out of line.
Athan has more potential than them all. A pilot with unmatched skills in the sky (more on this in a bit). Yet despite his abilities, he wants nothing to do with the war his father started.
He wants to escape it, to fly off and never be seen again, but that would just leave his best friend Cyar to fight in the war all alone. And let me tell you, thank goodness for his decision to fight, because those battle scenes in the sky GET MY BLOOD PUMPING. I was constantly on edge as Athan and his team flew up against enemy planes! The best scenes are when Athan is in the air.
I also don’t think I’ve done a good enough job talking about how badass of a character Arrin is. Hell, a ten page essay couldn’t do that. He’s the kind of guy who will have a whole room eating out of the palm of his hand. Beyond arrogant with a nose for trouble. I adore him for that. Every time he opens his mouth, I hold my breath to see what comes out. His military decorations give him a sort of “free pass”, one that he seems intent on testing the limits of. And yet through it all, he someone wins your affection.
I had the privilege to read an early draft of this and saw the journey to its final polished form. It is one of my favorite reads of all time, and I'm already chomping at the bit to see book 2.
I received this eARC from Tor Teen on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of this book in any way.
DNF'd at chapter 2
I'm sure the book is fine, and I liked some aspects of it, but the prologue was terrible as far as plot goes, the writing is simultaneously pretentious and boring—and somehow manages to read like distance-inducing third person despite being first—and so much exposition has been spewed at me, I feel like I've already read half the book. There are better war books and there are better fantasies.
This should have been one of my top reads of 2019. It has everything I wanted—a WWI/WWII inspired fantasy world filled with airplanes, danger, spies and snipers, politics and murder.
However, I felt that it was severely lacking in context. It was like being dropped into the middle of a series, where everything was already established, battle lines were drawn, and the author chose not to see fit to give the reader a clue what the hell was going on. Yes, I could probably finagle things out if I really wanted to since it wasn't complicated, and I'm sure that the promised map would have helped, but having a bajillion names and places dropped without referencing why they were important—or Athan's half-rationalized decision to stay home and then his sudden switching—made the story far more confusing that it needed to be.
The lack of context and constant name dropping made it very hard to connect to the characters, mainly because there was a lot of telling how they felt about each other, without ever showing or really going into why they cared. For example, apparently Athan was his mother's favorite and he loved his mother—two things that were repeated ad nauseum, but there was little shown to support their deep connection to each other. This made certain events feel...less emotionally impactful. Overall, I just didn't care enough about the characters to want them to live or die, and...at 25% I should be feeling something. However, I just wasn't invested in a single one.
Additionally, that prologue was...torture. I'm 95% certain that I found out the twist of it already based on the clues that have been dropped so far, but the writing in the prologue nearly made me DNF at that point alone. It was over-written, purple-prose stacked upon purple-prose, contrived and deliberately obtuse (not in a good way). I felt little desire to go on, and probably should have skipped the prologue entirely and moved into chapter 1.
Happily, chapter 1's writing became a lot more reasonable, although I still wished that more effort had been spent on describing why the politics and decisions were important instead of describing the dust, hyacinths and each ray of sun peeping over the mountains.
Okay, that was a little too salty.
I do think that this story will resonate with people who have a lot more patience than I do, particularly with its slow reveals and the idea that maybe things will become more clear later on, but it's not really doing anything for me right now.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway is unlike any fantasy I’ve read before. The book features espionage, forbidden romance, and aviation, which is such any amazing combination. I enjoyed both of the main characters, and the writing is impressive. I would definitely recommend this one as it is an original high fantasy.
This book tells the story of a pilot and a princess torn apart by politics. Athan is the son of a powerful general, and Aurelia is the daughter of the enemy. The two fall in love despite being on the verge of war. I loved how high-stakes the story is and how it combines espionage, betrayal, and forbidden romance. The aviation aspects are also unique, and I enjoyed reading the action-packed dogfight scenes. I was very impressed by the originality of this one, and I would say it is the perfect read for fantasy fans.
Both Aurelia and Athan are interesting characters, and both their narrations provide extra insight. Aurelia lives a life of privilege, however it becomes clear to the reader that she is more than just her title. Athan is essentially her opposite, and he grew up surrounded by war. He is pressured to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a fighter pilot. Although I enjoyed them both, I have to say Than intrigued me more. He seemed a little more original to me, and I felt like there was more action in his narrations.
One of the best parts of the book is the writing. The book is able to pull off that classic historical-fantasy-sounding tone with a more modern twist. Although it has some seemingly World War 2 inspired aspects (and actual love letters), some bits are more contemporary, and there were scenes that made me laugh which is not typical in fantasy novels. The world building is also complex, and the politics and alliances are developed.
Dark of the West is a unique political fantasy with interesting aspects such as espionage. The main characters are both likeable and the writing is vivid. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next!
DNF at 8% because let's be honest -- this book was all bad book chemistry for me the moment the blurb compared itself to The Winner's Curse. Good for you, marketing team, trying to steal and make money off of my babies.
Where and when in the world are we? An alternate reality World War II time period? If so, strike two bad book chemistry fail with the contemporary tone -- Mama here don't do contemporary stories. Some people might applaud the author for trying to create a new and fresh setting for young adult fantasy but it just doesn't work for me. I'll take my formulaic young adult tropes, well done and grass-fed, please.
But yet, if an overwhelming majority find this book spellbinding then I'll give it another shot. Until then, don't you dare compare yourself to Arin and Kestrel.
"We'll just keep running. Just be quick enough to stay ahead. It's what I'll always do. Because I have you. And I fly for you."
♡ Dark of the West is a lovely debut, that although difficult to follow at times, remains intriguing enough to snatch the reader’s undivided attention. From the very first pages, the prologue sparks intense curiosity, and lures one into the story. What I admire most about this novel is the lush world Hathaway crafts, seamlessly weaving together fantasy and WWI and II elements. This beautifully complex setting is quite original, and while I appreciate this, I truly wish a map would’ve been provided to help me better understand the location of particular empires. I believe this is only an issue in the arc version of the book, so that’s a wonderful relief! Blending history with fantasy is no simple task, but it’s truly evident how much work the author devoted to constructing this intricate world!
♡ The dual narratives are alluring, and I especially love Athan’s! For the umpteenth time, I shall mention my undying love for sweet characters who have deep, complex relationships with their families. The intriguing dynamics between Athan and his two brothers are fascinating. How these bonds undergo significant change throughout is executed well. I also have a sizable soft spot for children who struggle to live up to their parents’ rigorous expectations. With that being said, I want to wrap precious Athan into my arms. My maternal instincts are showing. His honest nature, desire for love, and snarky personality work in accordance with one another flawlessly. I love everything about his narrative, and found his voice quite refreshing.
♡ Aurelia is a tad overshadowed, but charming nonetheless. A prevalent problem for me when I read novels with dual perspectives, is the constant comparison game I play between the two. Whether this decision is conscious or not, I find it challenging to refrain from drawing parallels, or the lack thereof, among the characters. There are several aspects of Aurelia’s personality that I admire, but the roles bestowed upon her in this novel felt fairly familiar, and not necessarily new. I longed to witness a more unique spin on her character, but was left disappointed. The romance between her and Athan develops quickly, but is still satisfying. They’re both new to love and I loved the innocent quality each of them possess.
♡ Where the plot may had lacked in originality, the brilliant familial and political dynamics that occur more than suffice! I find it nothing short of fascinating to view so many differing perspectives on the issues that arose from the impeding war and conflicts. The justifications and prejudices characters use to defend their actions are equally as intriguing. As foreshadowed in its prologue, this story depicts how our surroundings can greatly alter the course of our futures. The titles we grant ourselves are fragile and can be of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. Despite the slow and slightly perplexing beginning, I was greatly impressed by Hathaway’s debut, and cannot wait to continue with the Glass Alliance series!
A huge thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this novel!
I've read this book several times now, through many different drafts, and every single time I do I'm amazed all over again how beautiful, how inspiring, how epic, how well-written and gripping and heartbreaking and brilliant this story and Jo are. If you love fantasy, you'll adore this book. If you love historical fiction, you'll adore this book. If you love romance, you'll adore this book. (And NO love triangle! Yay!) If you love friendship, bromance, World War II, fighter planes, horses, balls, queens, princes, military battles, spies, princesses, fantasy, politics, life-or-death decisions, family dynamics, and forbidden love, you'll love this book.
Honestly, just read it. This book has everything you could want and more, and it becomes more and more beautiful with each new read. (And book 2 is just as epic and heart-wrenching and romantic!)
Trigger warning: Mention of war and death. Till the point I read.
I received this E-ARC via Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I have heard and seen this book everywhere. When I saw it on Netgalley I got curious and requested it. Unfortunately it wasn’t for me.
The writing style for one of the main characters’ point of view was off. It started to irk me. And it was taking a long time to process what I just read. Which is one I decided to put it down.
I recommend. I really think this is going to be a hit with others.
WHY 👏DID 👏NO ONE 👏TELL ME 👏HOW GOOD 👏THIS 👏BOOK 👏IS
This is such a richly written political YA fantasy and MAN did it hit me hard w a rich slow burn intricate plot that made my head spin for a minute
Athan is the first poignant male POV I’ve read in awhile... also the first male POV I’ve connected so deeply w in forever so props to that *snaps*
While I admit this book lagged for about 100 pages in the middle (after around page 200) and could have been about a whole hundred pages shorter the plot was refreshing in the sense that it was well thought out and had very spicy and heavily detailed character dynamics (Athans fam... #complicated) it also had super rich and dicey political betrayals that had me in it for the LONG HAUL
Also the little romance aspect thrown in was cute af
overall good read and added book 2 to the dang TBR 🤯
This book is stunning! Don’t be fooled by the heart-pounding pace of this book, this story is also beautifully, delicately told and should be savored, page by page. Don’t expect to get any sleep either, Hathaway’s writing had me flipping pages well into the night. A must-read for 2019. This book will be your new favorite!
I received an Advance Reader Copy at no cost from the publisher/author.
Warning: This review MAY contain spoilers.
This book really impressed me. I admit that it took me longer to get into the story that I would have liked, but once I dug my feet in I was hooked. Hathaway's writing style is so fluent and beautiful that it is hard to walk away from. I enjoyed her writing voice. If I am being honest, the writing felt like it fell somewhere between young adult and adult. Her storytelling is marvelous!
This book felt very unique to me as far as fantasy books go. This book had a feel of World War Two in a fictional world with various royalty and militaries. It is certainly unlike anything that I've ever read. It really stands out. The world-building took me a while to get straight in my head where all the countries and nations are concerned, but it was really phenomenal overall.
The plot is clever and engaging. I loved all the espionage, rebellion, political intrigue, and overall mystery surrounding many of the characters and their loyalties. The way that the plot points are woven into the story is amazing.
The characters in this book are intriguing and they grow on you quickly. Once you get inside their heads you will want to know more and more. I personally felt more connected to Athan's character than Aurelia's. I adored them both in their own ways, but I loved Athan's voice the most. I also enjoyed the romance between Aurelia and Athan. It is a very loose enemies-to-lovers trope.
This book has a little bit of everything to love. There is family, friendship, war, love, royalty, military, politics, fighter pilots, military boys that don't know how to dance and princesses that teach them, and an original world with multiple nations. It is a book that will blow you away page after page.
In the end, getting the nations and countries straight was a little difficult at first and caused a bit of confusion, but not enough to ruin the reading experience. I understood the characters and their motives and desires, but I did not feel overly connected to them. Everything else was pretty much golden.
If you are looking for a different kind of fantasy read, something wholly unique, then this is the book for you. Hop on into the cockpit and give this one a try because it will get your engine roaring!
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Dark of the West (Glass Alliance #1) by Joanna Hathaway is an unexpected and sprawling debut YA fantasy. The world-building and scope of this novel are grand and point to an incredibly detailed history. The author does a wonderful job of mixing the WWII-esque political elements and classic fantasy elements. Hathaway's cast of characters are also quite intriguing, including the secondary characters, and all are well developed. I particularly enjoyed reading Athan's POV chapters, as he flies his airplane in training and battle most especially. My real issue with this series opener was the prologue. It didn't really grab me, but I'm certainly glad I continued on because Hathaway's storytelling skills are great as the story continues. If you're interested in World War II set YA historical fiction like Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein along with your fantasy, then I highly recommend Joanna Hathaway's debut novel.
What I love: Oh my goodness gracious, this series is going to murder me before it’s over. I don’t know how many books are planned, but I’m freaking out thinking of what is to come. I read this all the way through, then reread the prologue, and I’m even more of a mess now. THE DARK OF THE WEST is filled with political maneuvering and the machinations of war. And you need to pay attention from the start. It is all told through the perspective of a young princess and a new pilot, who are slowly but desperately caught up in its web, even as they fall for each other. It is a masterful process in an incredibly detailed world - and sure to have brutal results. The story contains a trope I love - enemies to lovers. As well as one I don't love - characters keeping their true identities secret from each other - but I was completely invested in these characters' lives and choices through it all. All I can say is that there's going to be some consequences to come, and I may need to be hiding under a blanket when they happen.
What I wish: I wish this book had a cast list, and I can't wait to see the map. Also this is a small picky thing, but this story had so many R names - a prince, a king and two different countries, which definitely confused me on who and what was what.
Love Triangle Factor: None Cliffhanger Scale: Medium - so much more to come!
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of Dark of the West, and I absolutely loved it. The forbidden love between Athan and Ali is heartbreakingly bittersweet, especially as they are inexorably dragged closer and closer to a war neither of them wants. But this book is about more than soldiers and star-crossed lovers. There's also deep friendships, family ties, and shifting political loyalties--plenty of intrigue to keep the pages turning! Can't wait to see this novel on the shelves in February 2019. (I know, it feels like a long time away, but trust me, it's worth the wait!)
2017 Reading Challenge Category: A novel set during wartime.
He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war?
This book has all the right elements I'm interested in. It is a war story which I don't read often but fascinated at. It is an undercover/spy story turns a love story, you know, that kind of trope. I LOVE IT. I was really looking forward to this book and I can say it somehow delivered. Somehow. Here's the thing, there were times I got bored reading this, especially in the first two-thirds of the story. I know I said I'm fascinated at war stories and I really am, but I found myself wanting to skip more than a few times. It's not exactly the pace but the elements in the storyline. It's like most of the scenes in the book, I've seen/read already before.
But like I said, I love the main plot, the war and these young adults being at the center of it, and I love the characters. I think they're very well-written, well rounded and definitely unforgettable. The narration was fine and the descriptions are so vivid. But sometimes the exposition is too much I think it's giving away more than it should. I really feel like, halfway through the book, I know everything there is to know.
Overall, this is a fascinating read and I love the ending. I'm gonna read the next book in this series to see how it goes.
I was provided a copy by the publisher/author via Netgalley. Thank you.
The is one of the best -- if not the best -- young adult series I've read in a long time. It has everything: war, love, action, spies, intrigue and it's political and smart. The author has clearly done her research on WWI and WW2 geopolitics in creating this fascinating world and even more fascinating characters. (I've been lucky enough to review an early copy of book 2, and yes, it gets better.)
Oh, and did I mention Hathaway's gorgeous prose? It's got that too. I don't say this lightly, but this is a book I can see being on the big screen (or HBO). It is THAT good.
OMG guys....this book is so beautiful. I had the privilege of reading this book early on in its journey to publication. The grand sweep of the story takes you from the skies to a glittering court to a war zone. It's lush and evocative, the writing is incredible lyrical...I could go on and on. Pick this one up, you won't regret it!
Dark of the West is the story of revolution, war, and of course, of forbidden love. It’s told through alternating perspectives from Athan, who grew up in constant war and is the third son of a ruthless and powerful general who is leading a revolution. Aurelia grew up somewhat sheltered as a princess of smaller kingdom that has not experienced war firsthand at home.
I really enjoyed both perspectives. Athan is a pilot who is getting ready to go through testing to determine his placement after his training ends. He is the clear favorite of his mother who hates the constant war and wants Athan to find a way out of it, a way to stay safe and not waste his life. This makes her the opposite of his father who lives and breathes war and strategy and expects the same of his sons. If Athan had his way, he would follow his mother’s preferred path for him. He is extremely intelligent and a very skilled pilot, his father’s ideal combination, so Athan’s strategy is to hide as much of that from his father as possible. But his father is determined to use Athan however he can, and will use whatever tactics necessary to get Athan to cooperate.
When Athan is tasked with spying on Aurelia and her brother, the crown prince who is expected to take the throne within the next year, he was reluctant and just didn’t expect to be able to please his father. What he did not expect was the instant connection he felt with the princess. The two become quite giddy for each other (there may be a bit of insta-love here). But its sweet and for Athan, he really needs something other than war and pressure (from his father) in his life. Aurelia (Ali) provides that, and the two have quite a bit in common. For Ali, she needs someone to really see her and listen to her and believe in her, not just see her as a vacant princess whose sole value is being married off to whoever has the best strategic value. Athan instantly truly sees her and can help her be the person she can be instead of being a shadow of person who can’t actively contribute.
Before you get to this next section, which may be bordering on a rant, I want to emphasize that overall, I really did enjoy this and I do want to read the next one, so don’t read the next two paragraphs and leave with only the negatives.
What hasn’t sit all that well with me is the decision to have the prologue set so far ahead of the entire book. I found myself thinking about details I learned from it through out the book and was looking forward to “catching up” to it just so I would stop thinking about the things I knew were coming versus enjoying the story as it comes. I have gone back and forth if the prologue was a good decision or not because it certainly heightened my curiosity, however I also felt like it was akin to reading spoilers in an online forum, which I absolutely hate. Then I remember the reason I hate spoilers is because I want to experience the story as the author wants to tell it, so I should go with this, because the author chose to reveal these details. But I still found myself wishing I didn’t know and a bit perplexed at what the goal of revealing it early was.
Honestly, I am leaning towards it being a cheap device to try and hook readers by giving them a climatic scene, then thrusting them back to the very beginning. It’s like a TV show where they show you the ending first, then bounce you back 48 hours (or whatever) to fill in the gaps, but with reading I find it sticks with me easier than a TV show where I might forget until it gets close the scene I saw earlier. If I had caught up to the “prologue” scene by the end of this book, I think I’d be more forgiving, but the fact that the end of this book clearly is before that prologue scene just grates on my nerves a bit. I don’t want to go into yet another book like that and the more I dwell on it, the less I see a reason for the story to be structured this way. And to be clear, after the prologue, everything is told sequentially. Ultimately those pages in the beginning are causing me to give the entire book a lower rating and I feel its rare I can point to a specific section of the book that can have that much impact on an overall rating, but there it is. Evidently I hate spoilers that much even if they are given by the author, and therefor shouldn’t be considered spoilers.
OK, now with that out of my system, I can go back and say again, I really enjoyed these two characters! I really did enjoy the story quite a bit! Honestly, if I didn’t enjoy it so much, I am guessing that prologue would not have irked me so much because I simply wouldn’t care enough to dwell on it. I never advocate skipping sections of a book, I do feel its important to read the story as the author wants to tell it, but if I were ever forced to pick one section of one book from all the books I’ve ever read to skip, it would probably be this prologue. I just really still don’t understand why its there.
I feel like I’m just not the right audience for this book? It’s a YA book and it’s almost WWI-ish with the world developments (planes + guns + such), but in a fictional world with lots of politics.
Huge emphasis on the lots. So much politics. And fictional countries. And political maneuvers because ~war~.
I was attracted to this book because of the cover and because friends liked it, but I feel like I’m just not the right person for this book? It’s almost niche in the way that the people who will like it most typically like:
- war/military stories - more dense/adult writing style - politics and political maneuvers - a decent number of countries and proper nouns to know/remember
Which, for some people, will sound awesome. But for me, it ended up being more like
- too many men in this book why are you all fighting with guns please stop fighting - zzzzz - sorry i didn’t catch your political maneuver the dense writing distracted me - is this a Three Dark Crowns reenactment because there are sooo many Proper Nouns someone help me
Yeah. Oof. I’m definitely not the right audience–on a scale of personal enjoyment I would have given this a 2, but on the scale of “is this an actually decent book?”, I’d give it a 3.5 to 4.
First off–the gender disparity.
There are so many male characters in this book and so few female ones–I count 6 female characters with names (Aurelia, Aurelia’s mom the Queen, Aurelia’s friend Violet, Athan’s mom, Athan’s sister, Heathwyn the nurse) and maybe 3 max without names? (unnamed maid #1, unnamed maid #2, that one girl on the street).
And then I can count at least 10 named male characters instantly, and hundreds of unnamed male characters. (Athan, brother #1, brother #2, brother #3, Athan’s dad, Aurelia’s brother, Aurelia’s betrothed, Aurelia’s uncle, Cyar, Malek the flyer, G-something the flyer, Seath).
(And no other genders represented.)
Seriously, I don’t think I’ve read a book with this many cis male characters in sooo many years and it’s actually startling. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just that . . . it’s very man-dominated because it’s a man-dominated world.
And that’s kind of where my problem kicks in?
Because this is war and historically war is a man-dominated sport etc. etc. aka the women are often not given as large of a role? The only woman that was given like the same sort of political savvy was the Queen.
And all of this is fine, but I think Hathaway never addressed the sort of gender roles that were in play and how the equality is Not Present, and I didn’t like that? I wanted at least a little more commentary about how all of this is being dominated by men, but I didn’t get that.
Also, I’m pretty sure the only same-ish age girl friendship (Aurelia and Violet) does not pass the Bechdel-Wallace test? Like, all they talk about are boys and I can’t remember 1 decent conversation they really had that didn’t somehow come back to boys/marriage to boys/etc.
And also, I didn’t even really like them as friends because I feel like Aurelia consistently reduced Violet into a pair of breasts? She like, never talked about any other qualities of Violet except that “she has breasts and dudes like that they’re always staring down her shirt.” And I just wasn’t really into that and I think Aurelia doesn’t deserve to have a friend like Violet who has her back when Aurelia only sees Violet as a walking pair of boobs.
The writing style + proper nouns combo was not for me.
Adult fiction is hit or miss for me, especially because the writing can be too dense and I don’t necessarily have the time + commitment to really dig into a read. I took the time to dig into The Kingdom of Copper because I love the representation and I love the concept and I loved the first book.
But I just . . . was not in love enough with the concept to want to put all the time and energy into deciphering the story? The writing style was not only just kind of more-stuff-packed-in-there, but the addition of a lot of countries and proper nouns for the countries made things confusing and I just decided that it wasn’t worth my energy to decipher the intricacies of what was happening.
Which is kinda bad, I know. This book would rate me a 2/5 stars for being not dedicated enough. But it was just a lot to take in, and I wish something was done to make it more digestible. The map is helpful, but a glossary explaining the political alliances would also have helped me.
And some highlights:
So, it’s not a bad book–it just wasn’t the book for me? I wasn’t crazy in love with the concept and the style and just idea in general didn’t end up attracting me as much as I hoped it would.
But I think Hathaway still deserves a lot of points for the fact that she did create this crazy monstrosity with all the politics and intricacies and that must have taken so much planning?
Just because I didn’t necessarily enjoy reading it doesn’t mean that what she created wasn’t incredible. Because what I did catch of the politics was really well done and I think Hathaway deserves serious applause for that.
Plus, the slow burn was actually pretty good and I think Aurelia and Athan are cute, although I wouldn’t be too sad if someone died. Sorry.
Overall, this was a good book, just not for me. Really, it would do so much better in other people’s hands than mine.
This war is young and doesn't yet know what it wants
* * * 3 / 5
Dark of the West confused me. It felt like a clever book, full of plots and intrigue, but I felt lost for most of it. There was too much going on, too many betrayals and a little bit too pretentious.
Somewhere, the forest is burning, my father is raging, and the kingdom staggers
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of the Kingdom of Etania. Etania is one of the northern kingdoms that has a complicated relationship with the newly forged in blood Savient. Savient is ruled by the general, a tricky, bloodthirsty man with secrets in his past. Athan Dakar is his third son, training to be a pilot who does not want to follow his brothers into war. When his mother is shot and killed in the street, Athan is told that it is the work of Aurelia's mother, who has a past with the general. Meanwhile in the south a revolution is brewing at the hands of a man rumoured dead - Seath - and he has ties to Aurelia's mother and her country of birth.
When Savient takes a contingent to Etania Athan is ordered to get to know the princess. He thinks her arrogant and inexperienced. She thinks he is but a simple pilot and is charmed by his rogueish good looks, his piloting skills, and his flattery. The writing is elegant, if a little overworked, and I liked Athan and I loved that Hathaway chose to make him a pilot rather than a soldier. There's some beautiful descriptions of his flying. Aurelia is a little more typical for a YA novel - a princess who doesn't know very much, who likes to draw and spend time in the woods, who doesn't want to get married. You've heard it all before.
There was me and there was him and now there's only me. The loneliness of that startles me
Dark of the West definitely had potential. Like I said, I loved Athan and I liked the prose. But the book was incredibly slow and was too complicated for it's own good. Etania's royalty and court has far too many main characters to keep track of, I had no idea what was going on with Aurelia's brother or mother or slightly creepy suitor. There's political machinations abound. I also felt very confused about the setting - there's advanced planes, machine guns, mentions of alarm clocks and screens, but nobody has a phone. The setting felt maybe WWII, but it was never quite clear.
Dark of the West tries really hard, perhaps too much. It is elegant and interesting and has elements of uniqueness, but it is also too complicated and Aurelia is a bit boring.
My thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC of Dark of the West